Dec. 23, 1937: The Los Angeles Examiner gets an exclusive interview with Albert Broccoli about his encounter with Ted Healy at the Trocadero.
In case you just tuned in, we are nearing the end of a long journey that began in April, when I stumbled across a Wikipedia entry claiming that Wallace Beery was involved in beating Ted Healy to death in the parking lot of the Cafe Trocadero in December 1937.
This has been a lengthy trek, but at last we are going to look at what the newspapers called Healy’s “macabre last night out.” This is a complicated story several variations and the chronology as reported in the Los Angeles Examiner, Herald-Express and Daily News doesn’t quite make sense. The newspaper accounts also disagree with one another on some points.
As we saw in our last post, while his wife, Betty Hickman Healy, was in the hospital after giving birth to their son, Healy spent Saturday night at a cafe with his ex-wife, Betty Braun Healy.
She told the Herald-Express (Dec. 24, 1937) “I saw Ted Saturday night in the presence of other people” and said that they were “discussing a business matter.” She also said: “Ted drank coffee and declared he’d never drink again as he did once upon a time.”
Healy’s sister Marcia also told the newspapers that Healy had quit drinking, saying: “Until his baby was born he had not been drinking since our mother’s death last April.” (Los Angeles Examiner, Dec. 26, 1937)
For whatever reason, Healy was sick and remained in bed most of the next day at his home at 10749 Weyburn Ave., under observation by Marcia, manager Jack Marcus and Hymie Marx, identified as a bodyguard whose job was to keep Healy at home.
That evening, Marcus left the house, ordering Marx “not to let Ted out of his sight.” (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
Marcia Healy said: “I had been with Ted constantly since Dec. 14. Last Sunday night I made the mistake of letting him slip away from home. He went to the Trocadero Cafe.” (Examiner, Dec. 26, 1937)
The chronology reported in the newspapers is that Healy went to the Trocadero, where he had three violent encounters, the last one resulting in “a whale of a beating.” According to the newspapers, he next went to Ray Haller’s Seven Seas Cafe, where he borrowed $50, then to the Hollywood Brown Derby and finally to the Hollywood Plaza Hotel, where he was treated and taken home.
Wherever he went, Healy covered a lot of ground, because his cab fare at the end of the night was $4.50 ($72.67 USD 2013), and the cost of a trip from “the heart of Hollywood” to the Hollywood Plaza Hotel was usually 75 cents ($12.11 USD 2013). (Daily News, Dec. 23, 1937).
One of several mysteries about Healy’s evening is that he snuck out of the house, presumably sober, at 11 p.m. and arrived at the Cafe Trocadero so drunk that they wouldn’t serve him.
This is pure speculation, but it would seem more logical if Healy’s first stop was the Seven Seas Cafe, 6904 Hollywood Blvd. Whenever he arrived at the Seven Seas, he borrowed $50, “to pay for some fun.” (Examiner, Dec, 23, 1937)
And however he managed it, Healy arrived drunk at the Trocadero. “Attendants at the Trocadero said they refused to serve Healy at the bar since he seemed intoxicated.” (Examiner, Dec. 22, 1937)
The Herald-Express reported (Dec. 22, 1937): H.W. Hoffman, manager of the Trocadero, today reported, according to police, that Healy apparently had been drinking so heavily at the time he arrived at the cafe that orders were issued that Healy was not to be sold any liquor.
His first encounter at the Trocadero, by all accounts, was with Albert Broccoli, identified as “29-year-old scion of a wealthy Long Island family.” (Examiner, Dec. 23, 1937)
The Examiner gave his account:
“I was standing at the bar in the ‘Troc’ late Sunday night,” Broccoli said, “when Healy entered. I knew he had become a father only two days before, so I said to him, in friendly fashion, ‘Have a drink, Ted.’
”He seemed quite unsteady. He turned to an attendant and said, ‘Who is this fellow?’ I laughed that off and offered my congratulations about the baby.
“Healy staggered toward me and punched me on the nose. My nose began to bleed. The next thing I knew, he had hit me in the mouth. And he followed that up with a stiff punch to the chin, which nearly knocked me out.
“I shoved him away from me, because I didn’t want to hurt him, and the attendants led him to an ante-room. Pretty soon, they came back and said Ted wanted to see me. I walked in and shook hands.
“Then Ted went out and got in a taxicab and that’s the last I saw of him. As I recall, he wasn’t marked up when I last saw him.”
The Herald-Express (Dec. 23, 1937) published this version:
“I knew that Ted was delighted because a son had been born to his wife and I had heard he was celebrating the ‘blessed event,’ ” Broccoli related. “So when he came up to the bar I asked him, in friendly fashion, to have a drink as a toast to his wife and son.
“Ted seemed a bit unsteady. He turned to an attendant at the bar and asked, pointing to me, ‘Who is this fellow?’ However, I ignored that and congratulated him.
‘But Healy came at me and punched me on the nose. My nose began to bleed. Then he hit me in the mouth and added a punch to my chin which nearly knocked me out. I shoved him away because I did not want to hurt him Attendants then took him into an anteroom.”
Broccoli added that attendants came to him a few minutes later and said Healy wanted to see him.
“I went into the anteroom and we shook hands,” Broccoli went on. “Ted then called a taxicab and was driven away. That was the last I saw of him. My recollection is that there were no marks of any kind on Ted’s face as a result of our scuffle.”
The Daily News (Dec. 23, 1937) said:
“I am certain I did not injure his forehead,” Broccoli declared. “When Healy left he did not have a mark on his face that I remember.”
Broccoli’s account was accepted by Betty Braun Healy and by police. It was also corroborated by an unidentified source in the Examiner.
The Examiner reported (Dec. 28, 1937):
Albert Broccoli, Hollywood man about town, said Healy struck him three times in the face, but Broccoli made no return, merely pushing Healy aside. Attorney [Walter A.] Ham and Mrs. Healy are satisfied that Healy did not receive ill treatment from Broccoli.
The unidentified witness said, according to the Examiner (Dec. 25, 1937):
“What occurred was just as Broccoli described it in Thursday’s Examiner. Healy took several punches at Broccoli and Broccoli pushed him away, but did not knock him down or handle him at all roughly.
“Then Healy went to a table at which two men and two women were seated. One of the men objected to Healy’s remarks. Healy apparently was very drunk.
“There was a disturbance, which was observed by attendants, who led Healy out.
Sees Actor Get
Whale of Beating
“The man with whom Healy had quarreled followed them. He was gone for a few minutes. Then he returned to his table and said:
“I took a poke at him and knocked him down. But he got up smiling and we shook hands and he told me he was sorry for what had happened and asked if we were still friends. I told him sure.
“I didn’t hurt him — just knocked him down. BUT another fellow IS BEATING HIM UP — GIVING HIM A WHALE OF A BEATING.
The only criticism of Broccoli by anyone came from Police Capt. H.J. Wallis, who told the Herald-Express (Dec. 23, 1937):
“It looks to me that Mr. Broccoli is trying to glorify himself at Healy’s expense. Why didn’t he come forward and tell about his reported scuffle with Healy before the autopsy was held? Instead he kept silent until the autopsy disclosed the death was due to natural causes and that the alleged scuffle didn’t have anything to do with Healy’s fatal illness.”
To be continued.